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Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:
Infants born during the pandemic vocalize significantly less and engage in less verbal “turn-taking” behaviors found to be critical for language development.
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signs a bill into a law that provides school children with free, basic vision screenings.
A federally funded liaison helps homeless students in rural Texas.
To read more, click on the following links.
Research & Practice
Babies Are Saying Less Since the Pandemic: Why That’s Concerning
Education Week: New studies find that infants born during the pandemic vocalize significantly less and engage in less verbal “turn-taking” behaviors found to be critical for language development. As those babies grow, experts worry they will need significant support to be ready for school. By a year into the pandemic, the average cognitive performance of children ages 3 months to 3 years was the lowest it had been since 2010. For toddlers ages 16 months or younger, expressive and receptive language scores fell from about 90 points on a scale of 140 in 2020 to 60 in 2021 on assessments of verbal skills. See related article: Education Week “Pandemic Kids Need Early Language Support. Here’s How Teachers Can Help.”
Positive Student-Teacher Relationships Boost Instructional Quality
K-12 Dive: Positive student-teacher relationships not only help students but benefit teachers in an interesting way — by leading them to use more challenging instructional techniques, which in turn improves students’ academic achievement, according to research from the University of Missouri. Using prosocial classroom behaviors like showing kindness and compassion increased teachers’ motivation and confidence, new research shows. It also led teachers to use more challenging instructional techniques that make lessons interesting and relevant to students. Understanding prosocial behaviors’ positive influences on teaching practices could support improved student outcomes, as well as help prevent teacher burnout and stem the tide of teacher shortages.
Chronic Absenteeism Spiked During COVID. Here’s What Schools Can Do About It
Education Week: Before the pandemic, about 1 in 7 students nationwide—8 million—were chronically absent. While there are no consistent pandemic-era nationwide numbers, several data points suggest rates of chronic absenteeism have as much as tripled during the national crisis, with even higher rates for vulnerable populations, like students from low-income households. While states and districts use varying definitions of chronic absenteeism, it is commonly defined as the number of students who miss 10 percent or more of school days. Strategies for tackling chronic absenteeism include nurturing family connections, building a relational network, and analyzing trends in chronic absenteeism data. See related article: K-12 Dive “As Chronic Absenteeism Skyrockets Amid Reopenings, How Can States and Districts Reengage Students?”
Educating English Learners During the Pandemic
New America: The pandemic upended the education of students across the U.S. While early reports bordered on catastrophic, school systems gradually adapted and innovated to close gaps in access to technology, strengthen instruction, and enhance family communication and engagement. Nevertheless, disruptions to in-person learning had a disproportionate impact on English learners (ELs) due to challenges in accessing and engaging with remote learning and limitations in delivering language services online. To date, state and local assessment data for ELs has been lacking, which has made it difficult to truly understand how the pandemic affected their opportunity to learn.
Students Need More Support From Schools When a Caregiver Dies
Education Week: More than 211,000 children and teenagers have lost their primary caregivers due to COVID-19, and experts argue that schools need long-term support to keep those students on track academically and emotionally. A recent international study finds that losing a parent was associated with lower grades in school, even after accounting for other potentially negative issues such as family poverty. Recommendations from experts on how schools can support grieving students include identifying students systemically, providing support beyond grief, considering the whole family, and making sure the student does not feel alone.
Biden Administration Launches Effort to Improve School Air Quality
K-12 Dive: COVID-19 brought to light many worsening issues in education and school facilities, among them poor indoor air quality due to older school infrastructure. To begin to remedy that, Vice President Kamala Harris announced a plan to put $500 million toward upgrading public school facilities to make them more cost- and energy-efficient. The funding comes from the Build Back Better Act, a bipartisan infrastructure law passed on Nov. 19. The administration is also encouraging districts to use American Rescue Plan dollars toward improving their HVAC systems. In mid-March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to improve ventilation in schools and other buildings.
Report: 40% of Districts Plan to Spend ESSER Funds on Tutoring
K-12 Dive: More than 40% of school districts and charter school organizations plan to fund tutoring and academic coaching using their federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, according to a new report by FutureEd, a nonpartisan think tank. FutureEd estimated that so far, districts have dedicated over $1.7 billion in ESSER III funding to tutoring and coaching. Additionally, FutureEd found 37 state education agencies support tutoring programs in their own ESSER spending plans. The report indicates a growing interest in K-12 tutoring to address COVID-related learning loss. See related article: U.S. News “Addressing Learning Loss in Disadvantaged Kids.”
Governor Laura Kelly Signs Bill Providing Children with Free, Basic Vision Screenings in Schools
Sunflower State Radio: Governor Laura Kelly signed Senate Bill 62, a bipartisan bill that amends standards for free school-administered vision screenings and establishes the Kansas Children’s Vision Health and School Readiness Commission. “Early detection of vision issues in children helps educators assess and address the needs of students promptly,” Governor Kelly said. “It is critical we address these issues early on — especially if a student has shown signs of reading difficulty, to ensure our kids continue to learn to their fullest potential and find success in the classroom.” SB62 also ensures sign language interpreters are held to a standard just as other licensed professionals.
Around the Nation
A One-Woman Rescue Squad for Homeless Students in Rural Texas
New York Times: The work of Norma Mercado, a Texas school system’s point person for dealing with homeless young people, is benefiting from a big but temporary surge in federal funding. Under a 1987 law now known as the McKinney-Vento Act, every school district must appoint a “liaison” like Ms. Mercado to protect homeless students’ rights. But until now only about one district in four received money for the work, meaning many made perfunctory efforts. With school closures from the pandemic harming poor students, Congress last year approved $800 million in new grants, more than tripling the funding for three years and auguring an era of innovation in services for homeless children.
Translating Quarter of a Million Text Messages for Families
Hechinger Report: Requests for translation often range from simple reminders that parents needed to sign a form to help coping with medical emergencies. But during the pandemic, when communication with families at home became even more difficult, some school districts decided to try something new: the TalkingPoints translation app. The app, which launched in a few Oakland, California, schools several years before Covid, uses two-way, multilanguage translation to send text messages between schools and parents. Teachers, counselors, nurses, and even the transportation department can use TalkingPoints to notify families of missing homework, behavioral issues in class, or bus schedule changes.
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